The Oman Ministry of Tourism has set its sights on attracting 12 million visitors by the year 2020.
The ministry’s vision follows on from a strong 2008 visitor arrival performance, which saw three million-plus international travelers enter the sultanate.
Based on this and forward visitor arrival projections the ministry is confident the tourism sector will become one of the biggest contributors to Oman’s GDP within the next 11 years.
The ministry’s aspirations have been heavily supported by both the Oman government and private sector which have invested heavily in several major tourism projects across the destination valued at more than US$10 billion.
Sultanate of Oman tourism director Australia/New Zealand Mona Tannous said one of the principle projects now underway was a major upgrade and expansion of the Sultanate’s principal air gateway, Muscat International Airport.
The airport last year handled more than 3.2 million international visitor arrivals.
Plans for the airport development, she said, include a new terminal building, 32 air bridges and an additional runway while the existing runway will be upgraded to handle the super-sized Airbus A380.
In addition to the airport development, several massive tourism projects are now well underway most of which will be completed within the next five years.
These include 10 integrated resort style developments under construction in various parts of the country plus a major 6000-seat Convention Centre being built on a 1.6 million hectare site close to Muscat International Airport.
Work is also nearing completion on the venue for 2010 Asian Beach Games which will take place at Wudum Al Sahil near Muscat in December next year.
Following the event the games complex is intended to be used as a major resort complex.
Ms. Tannous said the overall blueprint for all of these projects also extended to the development and upgrading of key transportation hubs and links other parts of the country.
These include new regional airports and facilities in Nizwa, Duqm and Salalah, all of which are viewed as critical in facilitating access to these regions for international visitors arriving via Muscat.
Ms. Tannous said a major component of the ministry’s in achieving success for its “Vision 2020” charter centers on the roll out of ongoing international marketing strategies designed to further broaden the destination’s appeal to an ever-widening international audience.
These, she said, were intended to create awareness of the many fascinating, historical and culturally rich regions, which make up the destination while attracting further investment and even more opportunity for the country’s tourism sector.
Entering Oman, she said, had also become much easier following a recent move by the government to change visa regulations to allow nationals of up to 60 countries to receive entry visas on arrival at the airport.
Tourism Minister Dr. Rajiha Bint Abdulamir Bin Ali said that under the Oman government’s “Vision 2020” charter the tourism sector has been set to increase the level of employment of Omani nationals in the sector from the current 37 percent to 80 percent by the year 2010; to achieve an average annual growth rate for the tourist income by seven per cent for the period 2005-2010; and conserve and protect the natural environments as well as assuring respect of customs, traditions and cultural heritage.